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CNNfn to add e-commerce

The financial news site plans to launch a retail channel selling items ranging from office equipment to vacation packages.

CNNfn today announced plans to launch a retail channel on its business news and information Web site, furthering its push to become a one-stop shop for its professional user base.

The new service is the result of a partnership between the media company and online shopping platform C2B Technologies. In inking this deal, CNNfn purchased a minority equity stake in C2B. The two companies plan to share advertising and transactional revenues.

The shopping service will be featured on CNNfn as a link, and will offer an array of merchandise ranging from office equipment to vacation packages. The channel also will feature a comparison shopping resource and third-party product information. Users will be able to purchase goods directly from the site.

Executives at CNNfn said the evolution of the site to host a shopping resource was a logical step given the demographic profile of its users. Since CNNfn visitors on average are 46 years old, male, and highly educated with an average yearly income of $87,200, the company said its strategy was to give this community of buyers a convenient service to purchase goods.

And if the service becomes a hit, it is likely consumers will develop more loyalty to the CNNfn Web site as their primary destination.

"We wanted to give the service to really highly discerning viewers," said Helen Whelan, vice president of business development for CNN financial news, which includes the television arm. "It keeps them on our Web site."

However, some would say this strategy sounds vaguely like that of the portals, such as Yahoo and Excite. Other content sites also have begun offering features traditionally found on portal sites. For example, in May, Business Week joined the ranks of sites offering free email. Other sites, such as CBS SportLine, offer add-ons such as stock quotes to keep users from going elsewhere.

"In general, any media player can't really make a go at it with advertising alone," said Patrick Keane, an analyst with Jupiter Communications. "Any of these players are trying to diversify away from that model."

Keane added that CNNfn could face criticism about stepping over the boundaries between advertising and editorial. CNN's Whelan stressed that the service will be clearly marked as a separate site, and that editorial content will not include links to purchase products.

CNNfn declined to disclose the financial terms of the deal.